Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Paper Son: S. J. Rozan

The Lydia Chin / Bill Smith mystery series is one my favorite contemporary mystery series; the 11th book in the series was published in 2011.  After eight long years, another book has been published. I had no idea she was even working on it and as soon as I saw it, I purchased it and read it.

Paper Son is one of the best in the series. This book earned a starred review at Publishers' Weekly and I was glad to read the praise for the book and the author there and at Kirkus Reviews.

Summary from S.J. Rozan's website:
The Most Southern Place on Earth: that’s what they call the Mississippi Delta. It’s not a place Lydia Chin, an American-born Chinese private detective from Chinatown, NYC, ever thought she’d have reason to go. But when her mother tells her a cousin Lydia didn’t know she had is in jail in Clarksdale, Mississippi—and that Lydia has to rush down south and get him out—Lydia finds herself rolling down Highway 61 with Bill Smith, her partner, behind the wheel.
Other than being set in Mississippi, which is very different from New York, the big surprises here are that Lydia's mom, who has always disliked Lydia's profession, has requested that Lydia go help out a cousin in Mississippi, and that she insists that Bill Smith go along to help. She has also resisted Lydia's partnership with Bill for years.

The strongest point in previous books in the series is the characters. Lydia and Bill each have their own opinions and strengths. Each book also features other characters, such as Lydia's mom, that stand out and are interesting. The setting is often New York City's Chinatown, where Lydia lives and works. And, in addition, the mystery element is handled well.

Another joy in this book was reading about Lydia in a new environment and one I am pretty familiar with. I grew up in Alabama and I had relatives in the small town of Batesville, Mississippi. I visited them often in my childhood, and my husband and I made a special trip to Mississippi to visit them right before we got married.

This is a pretty good look at the South, without being over the top, not that I have spent a lot of time there in the last few years. Bill lets his southern roots show in this story, and I know exactly how that is. As soon as you are back in the South, a good bit of your Southern accent comes back. Lydia's reaction to sweet tea was humorous; the relative she and Bill stay with has a pitcher available at all times. I personally was never a fan of sweet tea and did not even have any until I was in college, but it is clearly popular throughout the South.

I would like to share this quote from The Irresponsible Reader:
Rozan’s at her strongest when in addition to the mystery, she’s using the circumstances around it to have Lydia and/or Bill explore another culture/sub-culture. She’s displayed this strength when helping her readers understand the Jewish refugees in the 1930’s who fled to Shanghai (The Shanghai Moon), Hong Kong (in Reflecting the Sky), Small Town High School Football (Winter and Night), the Contemporary Chinese Art scene (Ghost Hero), and so on. Here we get a Yankee perspective on Mississippi black/white relations (and a glance or two at how it differs from neighboring states), as well as a fascinating look at the Chinese in the Mississippi Delta in the late Nineteenth Century (which left me almost as shocked as Lydia). You give us that kind of history and commentary while delivering a solid mystery? It’s hard to ask for more.
If you are already a fan of this series, I highly recommend this book. If you haven't tried the others, I would read a couple of the earliest books in the series first, just to get a feel for Lydia and Bill's relationship in the early books. There is a definite progression of the partnership and their relationship in the series but each book can stand alone.


Publisher:  Pegasus Books, 2019.
Length:      312 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Lydia Chin / Bill Smith, #12
Setting:      Mississippi
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.


Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Tracy. I really do like the series a lot, and it is nice to see Lydia in a new environment, tackling a new challenge. I like it that Rozan has a good blend of Lydia's personal life and her professional life, too.

TracyK said...

Yes, I liked everything about this entry in the series, Margot. Sometimes, I don't care for mixing personal and professional life in a mystery, but this series usually has the right mix.

Rick Robinson said...

I've heard about the books for ever, and have the first two or three on the shelf, but have yet to read one. It's one of those "one of these days..." things. I guess what I need to do is take the first one off the shelf and put it on the little TBR bookcase in the bedroom so it will be to hand when I finish something.

Though when that will be I'm not sure. I have three books in progress and two library books I've yet to crack, and I expect to get more books today (see blog). *Sigh*

TracyK said...

I know how it is, Rick. I have three books in progress now, although only one of them is crime fiction. The other two are non-fiction. I do hope someday you try the Lydia Chin / Bill Smith series, I think the early ones are really good.

Rick Robinson said...

I'll make a point of it, Tracy.

Mathew Paust said...

I'm interested. You've not only acquainted me with a new author, Tracy, you have sold me on giving her a try. As to sweet tea in the South, here in most Virginia restaurants you're encouraged to specify "unsweetened" if you don't want the sugar water.

TracyK said...

That is interesting about sweet tea, Mathew. Wikipedia says: "The oldest known recipe for sweet iced tea was published in 1879 in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree, who was born in Virginia." I did not experience a lot of foods the South is known for (like grits) when I was a child, but we did have cornbread and southern style turkey dressing.

col2910 said...

I have a few from this series in the tubs and on the kindle, and I think my wife has read and enjoyed a couple. I've not got there yet, but one day!

TracyK said...

I hope you do get there one day, Col. And that you enjoy whichever book you try.